Best Single DIN Head Unit Reviews of 2021
Alpine CDE-175BT Single-Din CD Car Stereo W/Bluetooth
Best for music fanatics
High voltage and a wide range of audio features make this DIN head unit a true badass.
1 Alpine CDE-175BT Review
Wanna get the party started the moment you step into your car? You can do just that with the Alpine CDE-175BT, the best single DIN head unit around.
Cramming loads of audio features under its compact hood, this DIN unit can sync with your smartphone to play your favorite tunes. It’s also Pandora-ready if you want to stream music or listen to the radio. Or, if you’re old-school, simply use it with a CD or USB key.
This single DIN head unit comes with 6-channel preamp outputs, including a 5-volt front, rear, and subwoofer. Ten user presets for the equalizer, high-pass filters, and expandability options make it easy to customize it to your needs.
Design-wise, it has a detachable face and variable color display. It doesn’t come with a remote control, but it is compatible with one – all you have to do is purchase it separately if you want. Powerful and built to last, it can satisfy your craving for music for a long time.
Kenwood KMM-BT325 Bluetooth USB MP3 Dual Phone Connection Car Stereo Receiver
Best value for money
An impressive digital media receiver capable of satisfying most vehicle owners.
2 Kenwood KMM-BT325 Review
The Kenwood KMM-BT325 ticks most boxes in terms of value for money. It might not have a CD slot nor the crisp sound delivered by the Pioneer, but trust us, you’ll be impressed. This digital media receiver can connect with two phones at once, and it’s compatible with both Android and iOS systems.
Six EQ curved and 13 band equalizers make it easy to tune the sounds no matter where you’re playing music from. It works with Spotify, iHeart Radio, and it’s even Alexa-ready. Like our best in class, it delivers hands-free calls, not to mention that you can easily use your mobile device as a remote control.
Front USB and AUX inputs bring further value, just in case you don’t have enough music stored on your tablet or phone. And the cherry on top is the earbuds from Alphasonik you can use to listen to your favorite tunes without disturbing the passengers in your vehicle.
BOSS Audio Systems 656BCK Car Stereo Package
Best car stereo package
A powerful single DIN head unit and two full-range speakers in a bundle that can satisfy most car audio needs.
3 BOSS Audio Systems 656BCK Review
If you need a new single DIN head unit and speakers, this bundle could be just right. The powerful single DIN head unit packs all the punch you’d expect from a BOSS unit, including front and rear preamp outputs and various audio features.
The speakers feature poly cone woofers and foam surround, delivering exceptional sound clarity and bass capability.
An intuitive control panel and remote control allow everyone in the car to switch from one mode to another or adjust the volume.
Like most car stereos around, the BOSS Audio Systems 656BCK features hands-free calls, wireless streaming options and is compatible with Pandora and Spotify. And the cherry on top? The unit comes with a switchable US and European tuner.
Boss Audio Systems 508UAB Single Din Multimedia Car Stereo
Best budget head unit
An affordable single DIN head unit for those who want great sound quality without breaking the bank.
4 Boss 508UAB Review
Do you want a single DIN head unit with great sound quality, and that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg? Then check out the BOSS 508UAB. It doesn’t deliver quite the sound of our best-in-class, nor does it come with a motorized touchscreen, but it still packs a punch.
It can play music from various sources, including CDs and DVDs, USB drives, your devices, and even music streaming apps like Spotify.
The Bluetooth technology connects it with your phone for hands-free calling, while a separate remote control makes it easy for the rear passengers to play the DJ while you’re too focused on driving.
Sturdy, cheap, and easy to control, the BOSS 508UAB is by far the best single DIN head unit for car owners on a budget.
1. Single DIN vs. double DIN head units
The size of a head unit, or car stereo as it is commonly called, is measured according to the German industry standards (or Deutsche Industrie Normen – DIN), which is typically either single or double DIN. The main difference between the two is the size, or to be more precise, the height of the unit.
- Single DIN head units: Are about 2 inches (5 centimeters) tall and 7 inches (18 centimeters) wide. These compact units typically come as factory standards on the smaller city cars and on most basic vehicle models.
- Double DIN head units: Are called this way because they are twice as high as the single DIN. These units are 4 inches (10 centimeters) tall, but their width remains unvaried, of 7 inches (18 centimeters). Double DIN units are typically installed on the larger cars and on most full-optional car models. Due to their larger size, the double DIN head units typically integrate more features and are easier to control, although this is not necessarily a rule.
Besides the two main types above, some car models come with non-standard stereos; most non-standard units are 1.5 DIN with a typical height of 3 inches (7.5 centimeters), although some units may have random sizes that respect no industry standard.
2. Types of single DIN head units
The single DIN car stereos come in various types, but the following four are the most popular.
- Single DIN CD player: Perhaps the old-school model in the modern world, these head units feature a CD player but also auxiliary and USB inputs for playing mp3’s and a radio tuner. They can have analog or digital controls but rarely feature a touchscreen.
- Single DIN DVD player: Is the upgraded version of the CD player style and can play both CDs and DVDs. These head units typically have touchscreen audio adjustments and a fold-out display that allows watching video content. Like the CD players, they also have aux and USB inputs, a radio tuner, and most of them allow for smartphone integration and Bluetooth connectivity.
- Single DIN digital media player: Don’t accept CDs or DVDs but often integrate with streaming music services. These head units are ideal for those who mainly listen to music from smartphones or digital music players.
- Single DIN navigation: Can be any of the types above but also has a built-in GPS navigation system you can use instead of your smartphone when traveling.
3. Single DIN head units power
A powerful single DIN head unit with a good built-in RCA and amp line outputs will provide a great sound quality without requiring an additional amplifier. This is convenient when you want to enhance your car’s audio system without breaking the bank, but also to get more accurate sounds when building a bespoke car audio system.
Two values to check when assessing the unit’s power are the peak output and the root-mean-square (RMS).
- The peak power represents the total (or highest) value the waveform can reach, and most single DIN head units have a peak power of around 50 watts per channel.
- The RMS power represents the effective power of the sound and typically varies between 14 and 18 watts.
4. Sound quality
The sound quality varies greatly between the various types of single DIN head units. To create a quality audio system, it is recommended to invest in a car stereo with at least three RCA outputs for the front speakers, rear speakers, and a dedicated subwoofer output, and a high and low pass filter designed to boost the subwoofer’s output.
Besides these, you can also enhance the sound quality with the help of precision sound controls.
Precision sound controls
Precision sound controls allow you to adjust the head unit’s output for treble, midrange, and bass sound to match the audio with your car’s acoustic. If you want to have total control over the sound effects in your car, also consider the following features.
- Parametric equalizer: Allows you to set the sound intensity in decibels and the bandwidth at which a given frequency is boost or cut. These equalizers offer complete control of the acoustic balance of your system.
- Digital time correction: Is designed to compensate for the placement inaccuracies of the speakers by delaying the signal of the closest speaker to ensure all sound arrives at your ears at the same time, enhancing the accuracy of the acoustic image.
- Digital signal processor: Combines the feature of an equalizer with the adjustable listening positions of the sound field, enhancing the quality of the sound. These processors come as built-in units on the high-end single DIN head units or can be added to the standard car stereos.
5. Audio sources
The best single DIN head units can play audio from different sources, including CDs, DVDs, and media players. Some mechless head units allow playing music from USB drives or SD cards alone, and some even come with internal hard drives which can store your media files.
If you also like to listen to radio every now and then, check if the head unit you want comes with a radio tuner. Most car stereos come with basic AM/FM radio, but the most technological units also allow you to access the HD and satellite radio.
6. Bluetooth connectivity
Bluetooth connectivity goes beyond the possibility to play media from your smartphone. Most single DIN head units with integrated Bluetooth connectivity allow for hands-free calling by connecting to a microphone which either comes as a factory standard or can be installed separately.
7. App and smartphone integration
Most single DIN head units allow for app and smartphone integration, but you should check the unit you want is compatible with your device or desired app.
iPhone users should look for the specific Made with iPhone badge on the head unit to ensure the USB port matches their device. New Apple devices using the Lightning connector also require a dedicated USB port.
Android devices and most other systems are easier to connect via the standard auxiliary input or a standard USB port.
The best single DIN head units allow for streaming app integration; this means you will be able to play and control media from your preferred streaming apps like Pandora, Spotify, or iHeart Radio
Some units also come with dedicated apps which allow controlling the system remotely or access dedicated media libraries.
8. Other important features
- Preamp output: Is important if you want to build a state-of-the-art car audio system, as it allows you to connect an external amplifier to deliver more power to your speakers and subwoofers.
- Steering wheel controls compatibility: The steering wheel controls let you operate the single DIN head unit from buttons placed on the steering wheels and perform basic operations, such as adjusting the volume or switching from radio to media player. If you want to use these controls, make sure the unit you like is compatible.
- Design: Most cutting-edge single DIN head units come with full-color displays and customizable color schemes, backlit buttons, and other interesting perks that can enhance the interior of your car.
- Anti-theft protection: The best single DIN head units come with security codes and detachable face plates as anti-theft measures.
- Remote control: Allows you to control the audio system from a distance and is useful when you’re using your car’s audio to liven up an outdoor event or to allow a backseat passenger to control the single DIN head unit.
9. The Best Single DIN Head Unit for the Money
Kenwood KMM-BT325 Bluetooth USB MP3 Dual Phone Connection Car Stereo ReceiverBest value for money
An impressive digital media receiver capable of satisfying most vehicle owners.